INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—The Indiana Pacers showed they can play stifling defense without their stopper.
Anthony Johnson and Fred Jones shared the responsibility of guarding Washington star Gilbert Arenas, the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer. Arenas was averaging 28 points, but the Pacers held him to 17 on 5-for-18 shooting.
“I think we played more team defense,” said Stephen Jackson, who led the Pacers with 30 points. “Ron’s definitely the best defender on our team, but I think missing him, we had to be more on the same page. If a guy gets beat, he has to have confidence in the other guys to help him. We play five guys together on defense and help each other, it’s a little easier on everybody.”
The last time the Pacers played without Artest, they lost to Atlanta. This time, they shot 59 percent from the field.
Jermaine O’Neal had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana, which bounced back from losses to Seattle and Dallas.
Antawn Jamison added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Wizards.
Washington scored the game’s first eight points and led 30-18 at the end of the first quarter. The Wizards extended that lead to 16 points early in the second quarter, but the Pacers made 14 of 19 shots in the period to cut Washington’s lead to one at 51-50 at halftime. Jackson scored 13 points in the quarter.
The Pacers made 16 of 23 shots in the third quarter to take an 87-71 lead. The 37-point quarter was the Pacers’ best this season.
“We’re giving up too many points,” Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. “We had a really good game plan. We ran our offense well. We didn’t respond when they attacked us.”
Jackson had been struggling offensively but easily had his best game of the season. He made 13 of 18 shots from the field and 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
“I’ve been in a slump lately,” he said. “I was able to get a feel for my shot early and kept it going throughout the game. I felt more comfortable tonight, which led to better shooting, a little quicker pace and my rhythm and confidence building.”
Jones scored 17 points and Sarunas Jasikevicius finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for Indiana.
“It was a great effort tonight,” Jasikevicius said. “We kept playing as hard as we could. Things didn’t go well right away, but we kept on fighting, then the shots came. Every night, we need to bring an effort like this.”
Indiana’s Johnson got his first start of the season and finished with 10 points and nine assists. He started 36 games last season while Jamaal Tinsley was injured. Tinsley sat out Thursday night’s game because of a strained left quad, the fourth consecutive game he has missed … Indiana’s Austin Croshere got caught in a winter storm and didn’t make it to the arena until halftime. He started the second half and finished with five points and two rebounds.